Invisible Men in Comics and Film- Frank G. Host, Hugh A. Robertson, John Carter

Written by Joe D on February 8th, 2021

I just read a great book, it’s called Invisible Men, it’s about ground-breaking African American Artists that among other pursuits worked in the Comic Book field. They opened the door for other Black artists to make a living as illustrators, portrait painters, comic book creators. I highly recommend it. Ken Quattro did a great job in telling the stories of these under recognized artists. It also reminded me of when I was first starting out in the Film industry in NYC. I was fortunate to have been mentored by a great film editor named Frank G. Host.

He was one of only a few African American Film Editors at the time. I knew another one, John Carter, I worked on some films at his penthouse cutting room on 54th street and Eight Avenue. Another Black Film Editor , who became a director was Hugh A. Robinson.

I never met him but Frank and he had come up together as assitant editors and negative matchers and I heard a lot about him. So I was inspired by Invisible Men to write something about these breakthrough Black filmmakers. Frank told me he got a break because some leftist film people split from California (due to McCarthy witch hunts), came to NYC and were progressive enough to give a young, talented Black man a chance. Hugh Robertson worked with the great editor and director Carl Lerner.

Lerner made a film called Black Like Me where James Whitmore , a reporter, took an experimental drug that turned his skin dark, so he could write an article on what it was like to be a Black Man in America and experience the racism first hand.

Hugh also worked with DeeDee Allen, I spoke to her at a party one time and when I mentioned Frank she immediately asked if I had any news of Hugh, unfortunately I didn’t.

Frank worked with an Editor named Irv Fajans, a Union founder and veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Progressive Americans who voulenteered to so to Spain and fight Fascism.

I don’t really know John Carter’s history, I just knew him as a very nice person, who worked on some big Hollywood films until he passed in 2018. But a quick visit to IMDB gives me some more info on his history. First of all he was born in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

He was in the Army and trained in the Signal Corps. A lot of film people wound up in the Signal Corps. Making films for the Army. John was hired by CBS in 1956, and he was the first African American  editor for Network Television in NYC. He was also the first African American to join A.C.E. (the American Cinema Editors Society). My pal Frank G. Host was involved with creating Shell’s Wonderful World Of Golf and won a Peabody Award for documentary work. He attended the Film School of the Sorbonne in Paris on the G.I. Bill. There he worked on Pickpocket for the great Robert Bresson. Later he was invited to sit on a Unesco panel on Filmmaking in Africa. If his wife had not died they were planning on moving to Africa to make films there. I’m sure there are other African Americans that played important roles in opening up the industry but these are the three I had personal knowledge of. In any case buy Invisible Men, it is really great, inspirational. I will write soon about another African American group of artists that are getting some great exposurfe these days. Kamoinge, a workshop of great Black photographers, several of whom I was lucky enough to know and call friends.

Too Much Sun, Robert Downey Sr & Jr.

Written by Joe D on December 28th, 2020

Here’s a clip from a film I edited for Robert Downey Sr. Downey Jr. is in it along with Ralph Macchio,Eric Idle , Andrea Martin, Alan Arbus, Leo Rossi, James Hong, Jennifer Ruben,and a host of others, including Howard Duff, it was his last film. In this clip you will see Laura Ernst harrassing Downey Junior at the begining. She was a great friend and married to Robert Downey Sr. But here are some funny moments. Enjoy.

Hugh A. Robertson,Frank G. Host, Carl Lerner, Pablo Ferro, Midnight Cowboy

Written by Joe D on December 12th, 2020

This is a crazy combination of people but what the heck it breaks down like this: I got into filmmaking by attending a one time Manpower funded program at T.U.I. (the Theater of Universal Images) in downtown Newark,N.J. (my hometown). The editing teacher was a great guy named Frank G. Host. We became friends and he got me my first job at Editor’s Hideaway on 57th and Madison Ave. in NYC. A commercial editing facility. Anyway Frank was always talking about his old friend Hugh Robertson, how they had started out together.  (there were very few Afro-American film editors at that time, John Carter was another.) Frank got his break from some leftist types from California , who fled the Hollywood Anti Communist witch hunts and were willing to give a young talented Black guy a break. Hugh worked for the great editor Carl Lerner, a priogressive person who went on to direct Black Like Me, about a white reporter who takes an experimental drug that turns him Black so he can see what it’s like to live as a Black person.

so these two friends were at the cutting edge of Black Filmmaking in the US. Frank got drafted and was stationed in Paris, luckily missing out on being sent to Korea. Then he attended the Sorbonne Film School on the G.I. bill, meanwhile Hugh A. Robertson continued to work in NYC, eventually landing the editing job on Shaft and  Midnitght Cowboy,then directing some films.  I had never met Hugh or even seen a picture of him until running across this intervbiew on YouTube posted by the ultracool Black Film Network. So I finally got to see him and hear him speak. Here it is.

It also just so happens that my old pal Pablo Ferro worked on Midnite Cowboy as 2nd unit director. Pablo told me he shot a lot of the psychedelic party scene in that film and here it is

The Man With No Name

Written by Joe D on August 20th, 2020

 

Here is a cool BBC doc on Clint Eastwood from back in 1977. He was the biggest star in the world at that time thanks to the Westerns of Sergio Leone. It’s full of fascinating characters, Paulene Kael basically saying she does not like Clint as an actor or director, the great editor Ferris Webster, the great editor turned director Don Siegal, Sergio Leone, Richard Burton. This is an amazing document. Check it out.

How I got into Film Editing, Frank G. Host, Irving Fajans

Written by Joe D on July 5th, 2019

I attended the Theater Of Universal Images Filmmaking workshop in Newark N.J., my home town. I was paid by Manpower to learn filmmaking, What a great Program, we got to make short films and we were all paid! There were about 12 of us in the program, I was one of two white attendees. The rest were all African American except for two Puerto Rican guys. The teachers were all African American proffesionals from NYC. It was a great experience. The editing teacher was an amazing talented man named Frank G. Host. We became friends and he helped me get my first job in NYC on Madison Avenue at a commercial editing company called Editor’s Hideaway.Frank was a great friend and mentor. He helped me in a million ways. He was one of the first African American Film Editors in NYC, along with John Carter and Hugh Robertson. Frank told me he got his break into film editing from a guy named Irving Fajans, who fought in the Spanish Civil War, was a Union Organizer, learned filmmaking on the G.I. Bill and was openminded enough to give a young talented African American young man a break and get him into the craft of film editing. I am eternally grateful for the help Irving gave Frank and Frank gave me.

 

 

Irving Fajans                                                                                                                                                                              Frank G. Host

Here is a film Irv Fajans edited and maybe Frank G. Host worked on. P.s. the director of photography was the great Boris Kaufman, he shot films for Jean Vigo and On The Waterfront among many others.

 

The Hustler

Written by Joe D on May 30th, 2019

Here’s the trailer for Robert Rossen’s The Hustler, great script, great directing, great acting, great cinematography by Eugene Schufftan and great editing by Dede Allen. Watch the whole movie and dig it!

 

Cutural Impact of The Exorcist

Written by Joe D on April 22nd, 2019

I remember the insanity surrounding the release of The Exorcist. People waited in lines for hours to see any showing, midnight or 10 AM. I heard Warner Brothers had employees, who were heading home for the Holidays, hand carry prints to their local theaters. They were working round the clock to finish the film and make the Christmas Eve release. My pal Bud Smith edited the film, a magnificent job! My other friend, the late, great, Jack Nitzsche recorded special sound effects for the film, that add immensley to the experience. But here is a short documentary on the phenomenon of The Exorcist’s first release.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Written by Joe D on January 7th, 2019

The Genius Of Cinema-Ermanno Olmi

 

I saw this when it was released in 1978 with my best pal Frank G. Host. We talked about it for a long time. It is a masterpiece! One of the best films ever made! Made by a true genius of Cinema, Ormano Olmi. He wrote, photographed , directed , and edited it. Damn! And all for a very small budget with non actors! Be inspired filmmakers of the future! See the Power of Cinema!

Pablo Ferro passes on.

Written by Joe D on November 17th, 2018

My dear friend Pablo Ferro passed away last night at the age of 83. He was the greatest, nicest guy. Super talented, he loved working, creating, doing incredible things.He was friend and collaborator to Stanley Kubrick, Hal Ashby, Bob Downey, Steve McQueen, Jeff Bridges, so many amazing people. He got me the job editing The Sunchaser for Michael Cimino and I tried to get him gigs whenever I could. Actually Pablo gave Cimino his start in filmmaking.  He was a legend. So raise a glass to a departed genius. Here’s a taste of his crazy magic.

The Making Of The Misfits

Written by Joe D on February 22nd, 2016

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Here’s a wonderful documentary about the making of The Misfits, a classic B&W film. What an amazing collection of talent! Arthur Miller, John Huston, the cast, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Monty Clift, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter, the brilliant crew including the genius cameraman Russell Metty and the spectaculer editor George Tomasini.

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Russell Metty with Orson Welles

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The Great George Tomasini
What a group. Out in the middle of nowhere making an existential Western. Wow, I wish I could have been there. I first saw this film back on the WOR Million Dollar Movie, it fascinated me as a young movie nut. I loved Marilyn and I had never seen Gable in a movie like this. The incredible cinematography blew me away, especially the mustang catching sequence. Metty had shot such masterpieces as Orson Welles Touch Of Evil, Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession, Kubrick’s Spartacus, to name a few. George Tomasini was best known for his work with Hitchcock, including, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window and North by Northwest. One of the greatest editors of all time. Anyway here is Part one of the doc. Check it out.

Wicked Woman

Written by Joe D on July 27th, 2015

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Here’s a tasty noir treat from 1953, Wicked Woman. Written by filmmaking team Russel Rouse and Clarence Greene, directed by Rouse, produced by Greene on a shoestring, the movie works despite of our maybe partly due to it’s limitations.

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Here’s a lesson to low budget filmmakers, keep your locations to a minimum. Wicked Woman basically has two, a bar and a cheap rooming house. The sets are pretty bad but that’s what makes them good, at one point Billie (the Wiced Woman) throws her sleazy neighbor out and slams the door, the wall of the set shakes, but I think that’s cool, it’s like Fellini said the magician must show the audience he has a card up his sleeve so when he does trick them it’s even more astonishing. This movie works on an iconic level, the Blonde Bombshell travelling from town to town leaving a trail of decimated men and women.

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Percy Helton plays the slimy neighbor that has the hots for the Wicked Woman, this guy was in everything including Kiss Me Deadly, the coolest Late Noir of all time.

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The Main Title Theme is sung by Herb Jeffries, The Bronze Buckaroo, a black singing cowboy star. Beverly Michaels is great as the Wicked Woman, too bad she retired after only a few more films, maybe she was too real, too ahead of her time to be appreciated. I think she’s great. Russel Rouse must have thought so too, he married her. They had a son Christopher Rouse, he’s a film editor that’s won an Academy Award.

The Sand Pebbles- Road Show Print at the New Beverly

Written by Joe D on June 2nd, 2015

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I went down to the New Beverly to check out The Sand Pebbles, a 1966 film starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborogh, Candace Bergen, Richard Crenna, Mako, and featuring my pal James Hong.
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The print was striped with 4 track magnetic sound, and it did sound great, a lot of dynamics, and an extended frequency range. The score sounded incredible, (Jerry Goldsmith) and there was a lot of music in this film. The print was pretty faded so it was kind of like watching a Black and White film with pink overtones, every once in a while a bit of color would appear but after a minute back to pinkville.
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The Great James Hong as Shu
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I had never seen the film before and this 3 hour and 15 minute version (complete with intermission) is longer than the regular release. A Road Show Print was usually longer or had mag tracks or maybe was struck from the original negative. These were screened at big venues, NYC, Chicago, LA. before the film went into wide release. Now I am not sure what scenes were included in this version that were left out of the regular release but I have a feeling that there was more engine room footage in this long version. Why? Because there is a 20 minute sequence of Steve McQueen lovingly working on the steam powered ship’s engine and it is great!
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McQueen was a motor nut, racing cars, motorcycles and amassing a huge collection of both. I think he really identified with Jake Holman, the character he’s portraying. One of the best scenes in the movie is a tense sequence of repairing the massive engine, a tour de force of suspense. McQueen’s company, Solar Productions co-produced the film and I think he had a lot of say as to what went into the final product. It feels like a personal film for McQueen. Maybe the fascination with machines, with the mechanics of things says something about McQueen’s world view.
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There is also a great battle scene as the ship (The San Pablo) runs a barricade in the Yangtze River. Great stuff.
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I relly liked a scene in a chapel where Richard Attenborogh marries his Chinese girlfriend Maily while McQueen and Candace Bergen look on. Something about that scene, the way it’s staged, it just feels like a movie scene from another era, but in a good classical way.
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Robert Wise does a great job directing this film. He directed classics in so many genres, a great filmmaker. William Reynolds, a super editor cut it. I met him once at Genghis Cohen, an L.A. Chinese restaurant, having lunch with his crew. A good friend of mine, another great editor Bud Smith, worked with McQueen on the television show Wanted:Dead or Alive. He and McQueen bonded, both were avid motorcyclists and car racers. They spent time riding in the SoCal desert. And if you ever find yourself at Casa Bianca, waiting for a tomato pie, look on the wall. There amidst the many celebrity 8X10’s is a picture of Steve McQueen from Wanted:Dead or Alive. I guess he was a fan of their pizza too.
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